Friday 18 October 2019

John Fallon: 'Term limits an ideal reason for FAI blood transfusion'

Failure of Delaney's troops over decade of stagnation strengthens calls for Quinn role

Top table of Irish soccer: The board members of the FAI gather before the 2018 AGM, which was held in Cork’s Rochestown Park Hotel back in August. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Top table of Irish soccer: The board members of the FAI gather before the 2018 AGM, which was held in Cork’s Rochestown Park Hotel back in August. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

John Fallon

While 2018 was the year Shane Ross expanded his glorious glossary of gaffes into football, the hapless minister, in time, might be thanked for contributing to the game's rehabilitation.

The fact the FAI are confirming they'll adopt term limits for their board (as outlined in our back-page story) won't guarantee a revolution, yet it certainly could form the start of one.

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Imagine for a moment the freshness of thought generated by seven new board members at the nerve centre of Irish football, especially if some, or most, carry external expertise without the baggage of being insiders.

Niall Quinn, for example, has been touted for many years as possessing a mind full of ideas. Sceptics of the ex-Sunderland chairman's megaphone diplomacy would like to see him translating those words into actions.

Others with a genuine outlook to improve the state of play could be considered. Fintan Drury's ambitions of creating an All-Ireland league a decade ago fell victim of political machinations but few could argue it wouldn't have delivered a better overall domestic product than what the governing body have presided over since.

As the league approaches a crossroads over control, his input on this topic - and other matters - would be most welcome.

They're just two potential candidates for a new broom opportunity the FAI can choose to embrace or avoid.

Whatever about pressure from the government, albeit an unintended consequence of the OCI's Rio ticketing fiasco, it is ultimately incumbent on John Delaney as to which direction he takes amid the clamour for change.

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According to Ireland legend Liam Brady, who worked under Delaney as Giovanni Trapattoni's assistant, the chief executive has the final say on all matters. That situation, were it true, would only be tolerated if those surrounding him at the mahogany table in Abbotstown afford him carte blanche.

It was a curious take by Brady, bringing to mind a declaration by Ross on 'The Late Late Show' in 2016 of his intention to eliminate dictatorships in Irish sport.

"You have to be worried about any organisation that has one person in charge for a long time," he opined.

"Anywhere where there's a little kingdom being run by one person with too much power is concerning."

This parish's soccer correspondent, Daniel McDonnell, succinctly set out back in September the litany of failures under the current board, seven of whom are in office for well over a decade.

A man who seldom does media interviews, Delaney offered an early insight into their workings back in 2008 when confirming they'd never held a vote. Like-mindedness would be most charitable conclusion; inertia being the other school of thought.

Plurality of opinion in the room might have stood a chance had the FAI implemented a key recommendation from the Genesis Report of appointing two independent board members.

If the absence of outside blood was a problem before the ills of the association were exposed by the 2002 World Cup preparations, then subsequently ignoring its necessity is even more damning.

Fostering football in a country obsessed with the game shouldn't be a problem. Boys, and increasingly girls, spend their upbringing idolising players from the nearby Premier League or Champions League beamed into their sitting rooms throughout the school year. A World Cup like the one just gone in the summer only served to heighten the interest.

Still, the current regime could have done many things better, from a grandiose 10-year premium ticket which continues to straddle an albatross of debt around the game's neck to neglecting the League of Ireland.

Delaney just cannot shake off the "difficult child" description that he granted the sector four years ago.

Sure, the spin department dole out soundbites like the Euro 2020 finals co-hosting as signs of progress by blazers but how ironic would it be for the Dublin party to take full swing without the hosts involved.

Irish fans wouldn't care where the tournament is on if the current team, like Wales have managed through some long-term vision, was packed with young talent.

Now the FAI are belatedly playing catch-up with all the savvy of a bull in a china shop.

It was interesting to hear high performance director Ruud Dokter recently relay how highly a visiting UEFA specialist rated players in their U-13 emerging talent programme.

Yet this is the latest segment of schoolboy football they're intent on destroying by transferring responsibility to League of Ireland clubs.

All of which, we are constantly informed, occurs with the imprimatur of the board. They've had their time, plenty too, much of it travelling with the senior team.

When even Shane Ross is telling you it's time to move aside, it's best to go quietly with life membership a guaranteed parting gift.

Irish Independent

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